Thursday, May 17, 2007

Leapfrog Update

Leapfrog Update: Florida Dems Considering Options

The Miami Herald has a must-read for any Iowan worrying about leapfrogging caucus dates.

Reading between the lines, it seems that Florida's move to January 29 was driven by the GOP legislature and governor, and the Democrats are left trying to choose from a series of bad options:
  • Hold a post-Feb. 5 caucus, in which activists around the state would gather to pick their favorite candidate. Top winners would split the full slate of convention delegates.

  • Any Iowan who's ever been to a March county convention after the nomination is clinched knows the downside of this one. You're watching the ball game on tape delay, but someone already told you the final score.

  • Beg the national party to bend the rule that only four states -- New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada -- can vote before Feb. 5.

  • That's like expecting Officer Obie to thank us for being so brave and honest on the telephone, which wasn't very likely and we didn't expect it.

    Michigan, long an enemy of Iowa's pole position, will pounce on anything that violates the IA-NV-NH-SC-Everyone Else dance that was so delicately negotiated last summer. And when/if that happens, the New Hampshire Secretary of State is eager to enforce his state's law that New Hampshire hold its primary seven days before "any other similar contest," and the Iowa parties will loyally uphold our law to hold the first nominating contest.

    (I'm proud to be an Iowan, but what's to keep another state from enacting a contradictory law? Wouldn't that have to get settled in court someday?)

  • Accept the Jan. 29 primary date, even if its results won't matter at the convention.

  • This move imposes the political equivalent of a no bowls, no scholarships probation: Florida would lose half its delegates. Fair trade, says Floridian Ron Gunzburger of Politics 1:
    We'll bring about the end of the unfair schedule forced upon us by the strongarm tactics of the DNC and RNC.

    The Herald raises other spectres:

    Imagine: Hillary Clinton campaigns in Florida, wins the Jan. 29 primary, but gets no convention delegates -- but they go to an also-ran because he never set foot in the state.

    They don't actually say "Mike Gravel," but we all get the idea.

    Or: Clinton wins the Jan. 29 primary but loses the caucus to Barack Obama.

    Something like that happened in my native Wisconsin in 1984. The DNC has a policy of closed primaries for the presidency. Technically the caucuses are "closed" as you have to be a registered Democrat to play, but in reality they aren't as you can change affiliation on the spot. Wisconsin, however, has no party registration and has had a tradition of open primaries dating back to the Progressive era of the 1910's.

    In the early 1980s the DNC decided to make an example of Wisconsin, fought the issue to the Supreme Court, and won. So in 1984 Wisconsin Democrats had two events: outsider Gary Hart won the non-binding beauty contest primary. But the next weekend saw the one and only ever Wisconsin County Caucuses, won by stalwart Walter Mondale. After that the DNC felt it had proven its point and agreed to grant Wisconsin an exemption.

    And that's what all the leapfrog this year comes down to: proving a point. Who sets the nomination process - parties or states? The question is, who will prevail and what point will be proven?

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